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Ted Bundy’s reign of terror in Utah

Good4Utah
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Ted Bundy was one of the most notorious serial killers in the nation.

And Utah also felt the pain Ted Bundy inflicted on his victims 41 years ago. Bundy was executed in Florida in 1989 for three murders there.

But two days before he was to be executed, Bundy confessed to killing three young women in Utah. He was also suspected of killing two others and in Murray kidnapped another teenager who managed to escape. In the first of three parts ABC4 goes back to 1974 when Bundy’s reign of terror in Utah first began.

“We had a good life and then totally (it was) destroyed,” said Connie Wilcox whose daughter Nancy disappeared in the fall of 1974.

Wilcox and Belva Kent of Bountiful are mothers of two of Bundy’s victims.

“He ruined our lives and he’s still part of your life, unfortunately,” said Belva Kent.
Her daughter, Debby, disappeared after leaving a play at Viewmont High School in Bountiful in 1974.

The lives of Wilcox and Kent will be forever linked by the horrific memory of their daughter’s brutal murders at the hands of Bundy.
Bundy was one of America’s most notorious serial killers, a kidnapper, rapist and necrophile. Before his 1989 execution, Bundy confessed to murdering 30 young women in seven states during the 1970’s.
“He was not mentally ill in the sense of somebody who was psychotic, didn’t know what he was doing,” said Dr. Noel Gardner a Salt Lake psychiatrist. “He knew very much what he was doing.”
It was that very normal but charismatic image of a preppy college student that allowed Bundy to get close to young women who became his victims.
He first arrived in Salt Lake City in August 1974 to study law at the University of Utah.

But in the fall, young women started disappearing. Nancy Wilcox was the first. She was a 16-year old who walked out of her home in Holladay never to return.
“The minute she went out the door I had the strangest feeling,” recalled Wilcox.

Two weeks later, Melissa Smith, the Midvale police chief’s daughter vanished. Her nude body was later found in the mountains. She had been strangled and raped.
Three weeks later, 17 year old Laura Aime disappeared after leaving a cafe near Lehi. Her body was also found in the mountains – beaten, raped and strangled.
23 year old Nancy Baird of Layton disappeared from a gas station in July 1975. Her body has never been found.
On November 8th, 18 year old Carol Daronch was taken by a stranger at Fashion Place Mall in Murray. She managed to escape.
Later that same night, Debby Kent disappeared in Bountiful.

“(We) called everybody we could call and see if they had seen her or she just left with somebody else to go pick up her kids or whatever, and no-one had seen her,” said Kent.

Bountiful police at first considered her a runaway. The Kents kept searching. They’ve kept the front porch light on for Debby for 40 years now.

“It burns out occasionally and we put a new bulb in, but I don’t know, it’s just kind of like, she’s not home yet, so why turn it out?” said Kent.

For Connie Wilcox, her daughter’s disappearance consumed her day and night.

“I thought what’s going on?” she said. “(I) didn’t know what to think. (I) was sick, just sick. I didn’t know what to think. We were just clinging on, day after day after day. Nothing.”

At the time, Wilcox and Kent had no idea who they were dealing with. Bundy left a trail of victims behind in Washington state in 1974. Police across parts of the northwest, were investigating the disappearances of 9 women. The only clue was a young man named “Ted” who might be driving a Volkswagon.

In Utah, Carol Daronch told police she was shoved into a Volkswagon and handcuffed by a stranger before escaping.
Bundy had been jailed weeks earlier by a Utah Highway patrol trooper for failing to stop.

Daronch picked him out of a lineup and Bundy was charged with her kidnapping. During the trial, Bundy put on the charm. Both in and outside the courtroom, he professed his innocence.

“Yes I intend to complete my legal education and become a lawyer and be a damn good lawyer,” Bundy told reporters in 1975. Belva Kent attended the trial hoping to talk to Bundy.

“So I went there all the time waiting, thinking as soon as the trial was over, I’d be able to talk to him and say, ‘what did you do to her, where is she? Where did you put Deb, just tell me where she is so we can get her remains,’” Kent said.

Bundy was convicted of kidnapping, sent to the Utah state prison. Kent never got an answer.
Meanwhile, police were trying to link Bundy with the deaths of Smith and Aime and possibly Kent and Wilcox.

“I didn’t accept it,” said Wilcox. “I didn’t want that to happen. I wouldn’t let that happen in my mind. I couldn’t live with that.”
Prosecutors never charged Bundy with the murders or the kidnappings.

“We couldn’t ever charge him with anything because we didn’t have a body,” said Kent.

But Bundy’s reign of terror had extended to Colorado where women disappeared later turned up murdered.
In 1977, Bundy was charged with their murders and sent there for trial. Bundy acted as his own attorney and escaped through the window of the law library. He was captured when he got lost in the mountains and drifted back into town.
Despite tighter security, Bundy escaped for good the next time using a vent on the ceiling in his jail cell.

“It was kind of nerve-wrecking,” recalled Kent. “Even though you knew, deep down, in you knew nothing would happen, it was still really hard.”

Two weeks later, a pair of co-eds at a Florida State University sorority were found brutally beaten, sodomized and strangled. Two other co-eds in the same sorority survived the bludgeoning. Police said it all happened within 15-minutes.
Three weeks later, a 12 year old girl was brutally murdered. Her remains were later found in a pig barn.

Ted Bundy, who by now had taken on a new name and look, became a suspect after he was pulled over during a routine traffic stop.
Again, Bundy acted as his own defense. But he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.

On January 26, 1989, nine years after his third murder conviction, Bundy was executed at a Florida State prison.
Wilcox supported the execution but didn’t attend.

“I felt it was necessary,” said Wilcox. “I think capital punishment is necessary.”

Kent also supported the execution.

“I was happy because then we’d be rid of him, and then we said you know what, we’ll never be rid of Bundy, he’s in our life forever,” she said.

Before his execution, Bundy confessed to murdering Nancy Wilcox. Two days before Bundy’s execution, Dennis Couch a detective with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office obtained the confession. ABC4 obtained that audio recordings from that confession in Florida.

Couch: “Was she dead by then?”
Bundy: “Yes.”
Couch: “Was she killed right there at the school?”
Bundy: “No.”
Couch: “But you are responsible for her death?”
Bundy: “Yes.”

But Wilcox’ body was never found. An empty grave honoring nancy sits in the Wilcox family plot in Murray.
These days, Eilcox has moved on becoming a painter and a teacher. Nundy is a vague memory.

“I don’t think about him,” said Wilcox. “I don’t let myself think about him. I don’t want to think about him. We know he is in hell.

Bundy also confessed to Kent’s murder. A small kneecap bone is the only link to her. The bone was found by a search party after Bundy gave Couch a description where the body was. Belva Kent keeps the bone in her bedroom.

“I just feel bad that she had to suffer the last part of her life,” said Kent. “You know, here she was kidnapped and was, I’m sure frightened and whatever and then to be tortured and die the way she did, that hurts me, that she died a terrible death.”

Utah detectives played a major role in bringing Bundy to justice. In Part 2 ABC4 reports on how a routine traffic stop in West Valley City was the start of the unraveling of Bundy’s murderous life.
 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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